Meet the Makers
It’s a great day at SAIT. One of our own is taking home the coveted distinction of being among Avenue Magazine’s first Made in Alberta award winners. Michelle Atkinson, New Media Production and Design '03, creates one-of-a-kind glass jewelry, home décor and sculpture inspired by nature and magic. Atkinson is also a SAIT employee and is among 10 of SAIT’s employees and alumni nominated for the inaugural awards.
“We’re so proud of Michelle and all our alumni nominees for being recognized as true makers in our province,” says Heather Magotiaux, Vice President, External Relations.
So how do Atkinson and her fellow makers dream up their creations and run businesses at the same time?
We’re glad you asked.
Michelle Atkinson, winner, furnishings and home décor,
Made in Alberta 2019
Where do you create – do you have a special “maker space”?
When I first started, I operated out of my spare bedroom, but my machinery and space needs quickly made that unrealistic. Not to mention quite a lot of my process is messy and toxic, so having a dedicated space is a must.
I currently share a studio space with a welder friend of mine. We were both looking for maker space, but couldn’t make the jump to an industrial space. So we retrofitted a double car detached garage with all the things we need for our work — extra electrical, ventilation and heat. We’ve been sharing the space for almost 10 years, with both of us adding to it constantly. We have a lot of our equipment and worktables on casters, so it can all be moved around depending on the projects we have on the go — the space is fairly flexible.
Don Begg, Welding Technician, '66, nominee
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere — people, places, things, events, wildlife. Everything has a story. I think of my sculptures as illustrations of their stories. I was inspired and mentored by my father-in-law, Doug Stephens, an illustrator taught by Norman Rockwell during the golden age of illustration.
Martinus Pool, Carpenter Apprentice, '18, nominee
Adrian Pool, Carpenter Apprentice, '13, nominee
What piece of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Invest in timesavers, be flexible and stay humble.
Andrew Moir, Cabinetmaker Apprentice, '14, nominee
How did your time at SAIT help you become a maker?
SAIT taught me that there is always a way to improve on work you have already done. Whether it be a different form of joinery, a simpler yet equally effective step, finely tuned tools, or always striving to be faster.
Ivan Cilic, Mechanical Design Technology, '08, nominee
What did you learn at SAIT that has helped you in launching your own creative business?
Part of the Mechanical Design curriculum was learning how things are made, getting familiar with different materials, learning their structural integrity, and the drafting and design process. The fun part was visiting other local manufacturers, from plastic mould makers and machine shops to office furniture manufacturing and food processing plants. The idea was to actually see a manufacturing process from A to Z. It’s one thing to have a great idea, but it’s something totally different to take it from design to production. What I enjoyed about the course is it was the right amount of theory and the right amount of hands-on training.
Darrin Sayers, Automotive Service Technician, '06, nominee
What do you wish someone had told you about being an entrepreneur?
You will feel doubt, you will feel like quitting, you will run into hurdles that you think you cannot get over. That is part of the fun, though it may not seem like it at the time, and part of the reward when you overcome the obstacles. Just keep moving forward, even if it’s just a little bit. You will reach your goal if you continue to work at it. And remember to enjoy the journey!
Cheer on SAIT’s nominees!
The Made in Alberta Awards and Conference is Friday, Sept. 20 in Heritage Hall. Come out to support SAIT’s nominees and hear from influential entrepreneurs who’ll share their journeys to success.
SAIT has programs to help you explore business ideas and help turn your passion and creativity into a career. Find out more about our Entrepreneurship Continuing Education course and the Culinary Entrepreneurship program.